by Sally Zara • Photography by Richelle Kimble
Before the 7th annual Restaurant Week Grand Rapids approaches, create a list of restaurants to go with friends, a date or with family, then choose according to the mood you’re in. Restaurant Week is a great time to explore different restaurants that you haven’t yet experienced.
With 64 restaurants to choose from during Restaurant Week, the following is a guide that is organized by mood-inspired categories to help you decide your preferred dining spot.
Hip Places to dine and be seen
When you’re feeling sassy with a yearning for excitement, go where the setting is beautiful and modern.
Reserve Wine & Food (201 Monroe Ave NW) is gleaming, sleek and light-filled with giant windows that look over Pearl Street, Monroe Avenue and the Amway Grand Plaza hotel. Sit outdoors on their upper level, or high-top bar section on the lower level. Test your palate with one of their 122 wines on their beverage menu.
Everyone is welcome, whether you’re a novice or someone who has a more sophisticated palate. “Our menu is full of vibrant flavors to satisfy a variety of interests,” Jill Norris, Reserve’s assistant general manager said. “We want guests to know just how approachable we are here. There is something for everyone, and women love this place because it’s such a beautiful setting.”
Wheelhouse (67 Ottawa Ave SW) is a new addition to the Arena Place District. Its versatile space is open and sleek, decorated by natural stone, wood and stunning white upholstered seating. The large, wave-shaped bar seats up to 20 people, and offer a more intimate dining experience at booths, high tops or tables. Restaurant Manager Sarah Flikkema said fresh and locally inspired food is the Meritage Hospitality Group’s central focus. “We have this incredible fresh menu from our scratch kitchen that makes Wheelhouse perfect for an elegant date night or cocktails and small bites with the girls,” Flikkema said.
Relax on the Deck
When you need to slow down and enjoy the view with a cocktail (or two) and a great dinner, check out these restaurant patios.
The B.O.B. Sky Deck (20 Monroe Ave NW) is discreetly adjacent to Bobarino’s, and you can find it at the top of an unmarked staircase next to the restaurant on the second floor. The canopied deck, which overlooks Fulton Street and the VanAndel Arena, is filled with hundreds of garden plants, herbs and edible greens growing in pots. Marcy McMahon, a member of the Gilmore Collection management team described the Skydeck as a hidden gem. “There are no sign and no promotion for it. You will mainly find out about it through word of mouth,” she said.
McMahon also noted their handcrafted menu that appeases both the eye and palate. “We maintain a healthy and delicious variety of choices always, and we love to delight new diners during Restaurant Week and beyond,” she said.
Rockwell Republic (45 S Division Ave.) provides another rooftop “hide-out” patio downtown. Becca Ranville, the events coordinator and assistant manager noted how tucked away the patio was, making it a refreshing escape from the busy streets. “You get the outdoors here without the bustle of the city, making it a great place to come and relax,” she said.
The food leans toward Asian flavors and spices with a cosmopolitan versatile slant. “We have such a wide variety of food to offer … from sushi, to steaks, to burgers and amazing salads. We hit all bases,” Ranville said.
Other outdoor patios to visit include the cozy side-patio at The Cottage Bar, the sidewalk seating at One Trick Pony, and the extravagant outdoor section (fireplace and all) at Gravity Taphouse and Grille. For a fairway view after a round of golf, sit on the patio at Red’s at Thousand Oaks, Cork at Watermark, Rush Creek Bistro at Sunnybrook, FireRock Grille at Stone Water, or Railside Golf Club.
A practical solution to quell the urge to “fly away” is to visit an authentic, ethnic restaurant.
Luna (64 Ionia Ave SW), a self-described Latin American oasis, is a recent addition to the dining scene in downtown Grand Rapids. The brick, sparsely decorated interior and delicious warm tortilla smell draws a mixed crowd, all who love Latin American food and a menu that promises surprises with fresh ingredients.
Shay Thornburg, bartender and waitress at Luna, describes the atmosphere as comfortable and accommodating, mentioning, “There’s a lot of drink options and we accommodate diners in a custom way with anything they want.” Thornburg’s favorite menu items are fish tacos and the Torte de Cerdo, made with Field and Fire telera bread, local pork, house BBQ sauce, slaw and Chihuahua cheese. Also on the support local trend, Luna sources from mainly independent farmers, purveyors, distributors and producers.
Other great ethnic restaurants participating in Restaurant Week include Amore Trattoria Italiana and Osteria Rossa (Italian), San Chez Bistro (Mediterranean and Spanish) and Mi Casa (Dominican Republic).
The Perfect Date Experience
Sometimes you want to plan for a special experience with a good friend or life partner.
The Local Epicurean (1440 Wealthy St SE) is offering a “pop up” restaurant right for Restaurant Week inside their Eastown store. They will offer lunch at 11 a.m, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. by reservation from Wednesday through Sunday. Start your date by selecting your ingredients and making pasta together. Once the pasta making is done, enjoy a three-course lunch featuring a selection of homemade fresh soup, a specialty flatbread piatta and assorted chocolate dipped berries and fruit.
The store itself is an emporium of food, housing a diverse selection of homemade pastas (both fresh and dried), cheeses, olive oils and vinegars, and chocolates and other desserts, so leave yourself time to shop.
Bistro Bella Vita (44 Grandville Ave. SW) has the perfect atmosphere for a sophisticated date experience. Open since 1997, Bistro Bella Vida has stayed fresh and alive. Today, it is frequented by regulars who have been coming for nearly 20 years. Couples snuggle in for an evening of great service, fresh-from-the-farm creative menu offerings within low-lit romantic booths and tables.
Turn the dinner date into a local getaway by renting a hotel room and dining at CitySen Lounge at City Flats Hotel and six.one.six at the JW Marriott. Another destination restaurant for an evening of spectacular food is Grove.
Throw back a few
For those in the mood to go out without getting dressed up, enjoy a more casual restaurant participating in Restaurant Week at the spur of the moment.
The original HopCat (25 Ionia Ave. SW) in Grand Rapids has now launched into 11 other Midwest markets. Known for having 43 beers on tap and more in bottles, their unique local, national and international selections (that can change daily) are perfect for discovering a new brew. Captivating art covers the wall and ceiling, and their “must have” crack fries were named one of the top ten French fries in the U.S. by Food Network Magazine.
Timber’s Inn Restaurant and Tavern warms their customers with a log-cabin feel and outdoor patio. With natural field stone fireplaces, fish and taxidermy animal heads on the walls, and a unique friendly, this restaurant is known for its ambiance and scenery. Timber’s Inn diner and Rockford native Shelly Robinson said, “It’s like Cheers—everybody knows everybody and if you don’t, you’re still welcomed. The staff and food are just phenomenal.” Robinson’s out-of-town friend, Karen Stebbins, described the porch as an “outdoor living room” and “down to earth and inviting.”
About Restaurant Week
When: August 10-21
Where: at 64 participating restaurants in Greater Grand Rapids. See full list at restaurantweekgr.com
Why: To celebrate the culinary scene in Greater Grand Rapids, showcase the creativity of local chefs, encourage local and seasonal ingredients, and to inspire community members to support their local restaurants. Additionally, Restaurant Week helps The Secchia Institute for Culinary Education students with educational support. Since 2010, Restaurant Week participating restaurants and sponsors have contributed over $110,000 to the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education’s Student Scholarship Fund at GRCC. Participating restaurants donate $1 for every Restaurant Week meal sold to the scholarship fund that is granted to selected students within the Institute’s culinary program.